Inclusion In Playgrounds: Why Is It Important?
Learn how an inclusive and accessible playground is beneficial for all children and their parents.
All kids want to play. As every educator and child advocate knows, play is so essential in childhood that the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights declares it as every child’s right.
But the unfortunate reality is that not all playgrounds in America are inclusive or even accessible for all children to play in. Furthermore, many schools/organizations aren’t sure how to build inclusive play spaces, or start developing a culture of inclusion in playgrounds.
Children with disabilities should rightfully have access to the same or properly-adapted playground equipment as their peers without disabilities. The playground, after all, is a safe haven for every child. In addition, all children can benefit from inclusive playgrounds. A child’s understanding of the world often starts with play. When all kids are offered opportunities to play together, it opens up healthy behavioral and social skills that are vital later in adult life.
Despite its many benefits, though, there are still several challenges concerning inclusion in playgrounds. The good news is that resources and information necessary to create inclusive playgrounds are readily available. With increasing awareness campaigns on inclusion and accessibility for all kids, the tools to create inclusive playgrounds are usually just a click or an online training program away.
Still – the perennial question remains – where and how to begin? And chief among many concerns is the expense it takes to create an inclusive playground in the first place.
For this blog post, we’ll talk about the benefits of inclusion in playgrounds for all kids, information on how you can start building an inclusive play space and how Kids Included Together (KIT) can help your organization foster inclusion in playgrounds.
What Is An Inclusive Playground?
The concept of an inclusive playground is simple – a play area with equipment and resources that meet the needs of children with a diverse range of disabilities; whether these disabilities are visible (e.g. kids in wheelchairs) or not (e.g. kids with hearing difficulties) – parents can count on inclusive playgrounds to offer a fun, inclusive and sensory-rich environment where all kids can develop critical physical, social and emotional skills.
What Does An Inclusive Playground Look Like?
At first glance, inclusive playgrounds don’t look any different from traditional playgrounds. That’s because any playground, regardless of whether it is inclusive or not, has a few things in common:
- It has play equipment, such as swings and climbing structures.
- It has areas for running and jumping. It may have toys for sand or water play.
- There may be a sandbox and drinking fountains.
- There are also picnic tables, restrooms, shelters from the sun or rain, basketball courts, and other features in some playgrounds.
However, inclusive playgrounds (also called “universal playgrounds” or “universally accessible” playgrounds) have some additional amenities and adjusted equipment that may include:
- Larger, wider spaces to give access to wheelchairs and other mobility devices.
- Calendar of activities and events that cater to a specific disability.
- Sensory play equipment such as the Little Tikes Braille Panel or Beat Blocks.
- Ramps to make it possible for children in wheelchairs to get on the equipment.
- Swings designed to accommodate larger children.
- Swings next to benches so that an adult can sit and swing with a child who cannot swing on their own.
- Wheelchair-accessible seats for swing sets.
- Modified slides with ramps for additional support.
- Modified climbing frames for blind/partially sighted children.
- Multiple exit/entry points, so children do not have to wait in line to enter or exit the playground.
- Play equipment oriented towards the center of the playground rather than around the edge.
- Additional staff to assist kids and parents.
Should Playground Equipment Be ADA Compliant?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted in 1990 to provide a legal framework of non-discrimination for people with disabilities. It is a wide-ranging civil rights law that provides equal access to public services, programs, and activities, including play areas for children.
The ADA requires that playgrounds built after 1993 be accessible to children with disabilities. Many playgrounds were built before the ADA took effect and are therefore not accessible.
The requirements for playgrounds are the same as those for buildings and facilities under the ADA; compliance requires that:
- All playground parts must be accessible to children with disabilities, including those in wheelchairs, who must have “full and equal enjoyment” of all aspects of the playground experience.
- There should be no barriers between the playground and sidewalks or other routes leading to it.
- Slopes should be no steeper than 1:12 (5 percent); spaces no narrower than 36 inches; swings, slides, ladders, and other equipment that children who use wheelchairs can reach; swings and other equipment that can be used safely by children with disabilities.
However, many inclusion and child advocates push for playgrounds to go beyond just accessibility and to fully embrace inclusion.
5 Impressive Examples Of Inclusive Playgrounds
Want to know what the best inclusive playgrounds are like? We listed 5 impressive playgrounds from around the country. Feel free to click the links to learn more about each one .
1.Brooklyn’s Playground – Pocatello, Idaho
2. Millstone Creek Park – Westerville, Ohio
3. Everybody’s Tree House – Germantown, Tennessee
4. A Park Above – Rio Rancho, New Mexico
5. Signal Centers Therapeutic Playground for the Arts – Chattanooga, Tennessee
What Are The Benefits Of An Inclusive Playground?
Both immediate and long-term benefits of inclusive playgrounds are numerous for all children, with the same benefits often extending to their parents and caregivers. So, aside from promoting social interaction between children of diverse backgrounds and abilities, critical skills that are immensely useful later in life are developed through inclusion in playgrounds, too.
Here’s a quick list of the most common benefits for all children simply by playing together in an inclusive play area:
- Through an accessible and sensory-rich environment, inclusive playgrounds instill a sense of independence and confidence in all children.
- Through interaction with peers who have unique abilities and needs, children without disabilities learn how to work out conflicts peacefully and respectfully by listening to their peers’ ideas and feelings, and following rules set by the group.
- Children with disabilities can now be included in play and develop social awareness.
- Because of adaptive and modified playground equipment, children with disabilities are encouraged to try new activities. For example, the inclusion of soft play structures without special access ramps promotes these structures by children with a wide range of mobility needs, including those on wheelchairs.
- Interaction in inclusive play settings is essential for children with disabilities who may be at risk for isolation and bullying.
- Well-designed inclusive playgrounds encourage friendships between different groups of children, which promotes awareness and acceptance of diversity throughout the community.
How Can KIT Help You Foster Inclusion In Playgrounds?
With over 20 years of experience – working behind the scenes and in the front lines of inclusion – KIT provides early childhood education professionals and caregivers with inclusion training and practical strategies. KIT’s goal is to foster a culture of inclusion in classrooms, playgrounds, schools, and childcare centers.
At KIT, we have engaged over 100,000 child & youth development professionals in creating more inclusive environments. We help drive the national conversation around disability inclusion in childcare and education programs by introducing inclusive policy changes and best practices.
Our services and resources are designed to equip teachers with the knowledge and skills to build inclusive spaces where all young children feel safe, valued, and included.
If you are looking for something specific, you can explore our other inclusion solutions and resources below.
From comprehensive onsite professional training to ongoing support, including on-demand online courses and webinars, KIT is your onsite, online, ongoing resource for providing inclusive practices and solutions.
Our services are available individually. However, your organization will get the most benefit if you customize a complete training package.
Connect with our experienced KIT coaches and unlock consultation services that will provide you with fresh ideas on how you can help include children of all abilities in group settings. You can purchase our Consultation Services as a standalone business service or combine it with our other relevant services into a Training & Support Package.
KIT works to help develop systematic changes that will encourage inclusion with regard to policy & professional development, training & technical assistance, research & evaluation, and extensive community engagement.
Visit kit.org/what-we-do to explore more inclusion services that we offer. From speaking engagements, monthly webinars, and coaching & consultation, KIT will teach you how to create inclusive environments where no child is excluded.
It’s time to embrace differences and encourage our children to do the same. By encouraging and fostering a culture of inclusion in playgrounds, we can create opportunities for all children to play together and learn from one another. Some schools, organizations, and communities have already embraced this idea and achieved great results. Let’s make more playgrounds inclusive and encourage the growth of inclusion in all parts of our community.
Let’s talk about inclusion! We look forward to discussing options that best suit your organization’s needs. Contact KIT today!